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Discovery Phase Students

Class of 2021

Class of 2020

Class of 2019

Welcome to the Discovery Phase Student Web Page. The information here will help you select and finalize your Discovery Mentor and Project, and will guide you through the subsequent requirements for Discovery. Please be sure to read through this entire page for important information as there have been significant changes from the past. Many links to useful web sites or to documents for more information can be found throughout the text or listed below.

The Discovery Phase is 5 months dedicated full time to research and related activities. Students participating in the MD/PhD, MD/MPH, MD/MSCR or MD/MS Bioethics programs at Emory do not participate in Discovery, as these dual degree programs fulfill their research requirements. Students participating in the MD/MBA program at Emory will do a modified form of Discovery that has been tailored for their program. Students who wish to do another dual degree program, either at Emory or through another institution need to meet with the Discovery Director, Dr. Maureen Powers (, to discuss the program and whether it meets Discovery requirements. All graduating students, regardless of program, will present their work at Research Day Thursday, April 22, 2021.

Discovery Schedule
Often, students opt to take Step 2 of the USMLE at the completion of the Applications Phase and before beginning Discovery, however this is not essential. Students may begin Discovery any month between March and August of 2020, after completion of the Applications Phase, but must complete all scheduled Discovery time by December 31, 2020. Students are expected to work full time on research and related activities, at least 40 hr per week.

In recognition that scheduling of the final years of the SOM curriculum has become increasing complex, with competing needs for required and away rotations, beginning this year we have increased flexibility in arrangement of Discovery months. Students may distribute their time in one of three options:
* 5 consecutive months
* 4 month block followed by one final month to be completed by December 2020.
* Two blocks of 3 months and 2 months, with up to 2 months between. These may be arranged in either order but may not be further subdivided, not 2 + 2 + 1 for example.

The Discovery mentor must be in agreement that the planned project is compatible with the desired schedule.

During Discovery students may take 2 weeks of vacation, to be arranged with their Mentor. Students may spend up to one half-day per week in the clinic or OR, if desired. This is to maintain and develop their clinical skills. Time spent in the clinic as part of the research project (consenting patients, collecting data, etc) is not counted toward this limit.

The Discovery Phase must be completed by the end of December 2020. Final papers will be due Monday, January 11, 2021 at 5 pm. Projects will be presented as talks or posters at Medical Student Research Day, April TBD, 2021 as part of the Capstone course.

Research Year or Fellowships (Extended Discovery)
Some students may opt to do a full year of research or to apply for a research fellowship program such as the NIH Medical Scholars program or other Fellowships that also involve a year of research. In such cases, the student will be described as doing "Extended Discovery". Students doing a year of research at Emory do this at no tuition cost, aside from some nominal fees required to retain student status. Students will receive 5 months of credit for Discovery as part of their fellowship or research year. If you are considering one of these options, you should contact Dr. Powers for more information. You will need to complete a Request for Extended Discovery form Extended Discovery form, meet with Dr. Felner about your schedule, and then meet with Dr. Powers about Discovery plans and schedule.

Students who wish to do a MS or equivalent degree at another institution need to meet with Dr. Powers to go over the requirements of the program. Degrees that involve a significant scholarly product, such as a thesis, may be appropriate. A Master's degree based entirely on coursework or on a group project will not satisfy the Discovery requirements since all students must conduct an individual research project as a requirement of graduation from Emory. If you choose such a program, you will still need to participate in Discovery.

Discovery Grading
* Final Discovery Paper 55%
* Research Proposal 15%
* Timeliness in meeting deadlines 15%
* Mentor’s Evaluation 15%

Research Proposals and Final Papers are each evaluated by two members of the Medical Student Research Committee (MSRC). Research Proposals will be judged acceptable or returned for major or minor revisions. Required revisions lead to deduction of points. Final Papers are reviewed and awarded numerical scores by MSRC members. MSRC members are drawn from across the SOM and are experienced researchers and reviewers. Because Discovery is a 5 month course, be aware that, in calculating your GPA, this grade is weighted 5 times that of a 1 month rotation.

Discovery Mentors and Projects
We have made several changes to the Mentor requirements to allow greater participation of faculty. All potential Discovery mentors must submit the requested information, including a Research Description to the Discovery web site. As mentors are approved, Research Descriptions will be placed in a student searchable database. If you identify a project with a faculty member independently of posted projects, the proposed mentor must still submit the required materials to the web site for approval and for tracking purposes.

Track A:
1. At least 5 peer-reviewed, research publications.
2. Status as the PI on a peer-reviewed research grant or contract within the past 3 years. This can be a grant from a federal agency such as the NIH or NSF, from a private foundation such as ACS or AHA, from a pharmaceutical company, or an internal Emory grant.

Track B:
1. At least 5 peer-reviewed, research publications.
2. Formal commitment of an experienced, senior Discovery Co-Mentor Responsibilities doc, ideally from the same department, who will agree to advise on program expectations, co-sign the Student/Mentor contract doc, and commit to, along with the Mentor, review and provide feedback on the Discovery student’s required documents including Research Proposal and Final Discovery paper.

After successfully directing two Discovery students under this system, the Mentor may direct students with full independence.

The expectations of Discovery mentors are described on the Mentor’s Web Page and in the Student/Mentor contract doc. Mentors will be evaluated periodically to ensure that they are meeting the expectations and creating an excellent learning and research opportunity, Discovery Mentor Responsibilities doc.

Medical Humanities:
Mentors in the Medical Humanities, including Creative Writing or History, or in medically relevant areas of Business, Law, etc will meet requirements appropriate to their field of specialization to be determined in conjunction with the Discovery Director and the Medical Student Research Committee. This will include a record of scholarly publications or other field-appropriate products.

Projects Away from Emory
Some students may wish to pursue a project outside of the Emory system, either internationally or at another US institution. An international project may be conducted under the direction of an Emory faculty member who conducts research at another site, or a faculty member at the international institution. Non-Emory faculty must submit the same materials and must meet the mentor requirements for Track A above. To arrange for submission of materials by non-Emory faculty, please contact Dr. Powers.

For international projects, some funds may be available to offset the costs of travel (see travel application). International tickets will not be booked until all the necessary Discovery documentation is complete, but please submit a travel grant application as soon as possible so that we know how many international projects there will be. Follow this for further information on international projects.

Selecting a Project
Once a mentor is approved, their research description will be listed in the Discovery Database. The searchable database of mentors and research descriptions should be open by mid-September but additions will continue after this. Clicking on the “Search Research Mentors” button above, will direct you to a search page, where you will be able to search the database by Mentor name, or Department/Division. To obtain more information about a prospective mentor’s research interests, click on the project number at the far left of the project. When you find research topics of interest, you can contact the faculty mentor by e-mail to arrange to discuss their research and a specific project in more depth. Most faculty are accustomed to being contacted by prospective students and understand the process. Importantly, please be mindful of faculty time and be clear about the current stage of your decision process.

Once you have decided on a Discovery Mentor, go to the mentor’s research page and at the top choose the link that says "Select this Project" and fill-in the requested information. An email will be sent to the faculty mentor. As soon as the mentor responds to confirm their willingness to work with the student, their information will be removed from the database, and the student and mentor will each receive a confirmatory e-mail. Please do not request a mentor that you have not met with; they will not make a commitment to an unknown student. For the Class of 2021, a Discovery Mentor must be identified by Monday, December 14, 2019. If you are having difficulty identifying a mentor, contact Dr. Powers for assistance well in advance of the deadline.

Both mentor and student must sign the Student/Mentor contract doc which details each of their responsibilities in the relationship and to the program. The contract should then be scanned and uploaded to the student’s OASIS Discovery Page. Signed contracts are due by Wednesday, December 16, 2019.

Discovery Requirements
Deadlines and submissions
The due dates for the deliverables below (with the exception of the final Discovery paper) are a function of the start date of Discovery, so will vary for different student schedules. To avoid sending repeated reminders, once we have the anticipated start dates, each student will be sent a checklist of their due dates. Make a note of these on your calendar; there are not many. We try to send a reminder approximately 1 week before a deadline but do not rely on this. If you change the start date for your Discovery Phase, contact the Discovery Course Administrator, Ms. Sherice Allen-Henry ( and she will send you the new correct checklist.

Each student has an individual Discovery page in OASIS where all information on mentor, project, Discovery start dates, etc is maintained. The student is responsible for filling out and maintaining their information. If dates or mentor, or any other important information changes, the page should be updated. This is also the page where Proposals, CITI and IRB certifications Progress Reports and Final Papers are submitted. Be sure you have set up your page by mid-January, 2020. We will send a reminder, but after the deadline there will be penalties for failure to complete this.

Research Proposal
The mentor and student will work together to develop a two page research proposal that describes the planned research goals and methodology (see Proposal Guidelines for specifics on the proposal format). Student proposals should be uploaded to the student's OASIS Discovery page. A signed Mentor approval Form is to be submitted along with the Research proposal. Research Proposals will be reviewed by 2 members of the Medical Student Research Committee, who will return either Acceptance or Minor/Major revisions. Expect this review to take at least 4 weeks turnaround.

Administrative Approvals
All students are required to complete CITI training before they start Discovery. For more instructions on required CITI courses please click here. Follow this link to complete the online training modules: and enroll in the Biomedical Research Basic Course . At the successful completion of training, please upload a copy of the CITI certification to your OASIS Discovery page. Some clinical research projects may require that students take additional training, but the 2 day Research Coordinator Course should not be required for Discovery students. If you and your mentor have questions, please contact Dr. Powers.

If you will be working with human subjects, your mentor must have IRB approval for the project BEFORE you can begin Discovery. A copy of the IRB approval letter or a valid IRB protocol number can be uploaded at the OASIS Discovery page. IRB approval must be obtained BEFORE you can begin Discovery. Both CITI and IRB documentation must be uploaded by one week prior to the start of your Discovery project. Lack of an approved IRB protocol can cause your start date to be delayed until approval is obtained and will be very disruptive to your fourth year schedule. Please consult with your mentor well in advance as the mentor is responsible for obtaining IRB approval.

For students who will be working with laboratory animals during Discovery, there is Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)-required training which is accomplished through the online AALAS Learning Library (ALL). Go to the IACUC web site: for information on this. Click on the training button in the upper right, then refer to Appendix A in the Education and Training Policy Manual for basic training. Use of certain species or procedures may require additional training. Your mentor’s research group should be able to assist in identifying the training required.

For projects that require IRB, IACUC, EHSO Biosafety or Radiation Safety approvals, your name must be added to your mentor's protocol once you complete your training. This is a simple administrative addendum that can be submitted by your mentor's research group and must be completed by one week prior to your start date.

Progress Report
Approximately half way through Discovery, a mid-Discovery Progress Report will be due. This is a one page summary of the initial goals, assessment of the progress made and plans for the completion of Discovery. A precise format is not required. These are not graded, but are required as they are an excellent opportunity to take stock of how things are going. If progress seems to be on track, you will not receive any comments. If there are concerns, you will be contacted by the Discovery Director to discuss plans going forward. A required mid-Discovery evaluation of your mentor will also be sent to you via OASIS.

Final Discovery Paper
At the completion of Discovery, most students will write a final research paper of 8-10 pages in the format of a medical/scientific manuscript (see Discovery final paper guidelines). Students who do Discovery projects in Medical Humanities, Creative writing, or other similar areas will submit a scholarly project in an appropriate format to be arranged well in advance with their mentor and the Discovery Director. Mentors are expected to provide substantial guidance and advice to their students in the preparation of the final paper which will account for 55% of the Discovery grade. Final papers will be reviewed by 2 members of the Medical Student Research Committee, who will return reviews and a score (100 pt scale). Expect this review to take at least 6 weeks turnaround.

Many students will present their research at a professional meeting. This is not a requirement of Discovery and is up to the student and mentor. Mentors have been told that funding of meeting travel and other costs is the responsibility of the mentor. If funds are not available, students should not be encouraged to submit an abstract for presentation. Students should not be personally responsible for the cost of meeting attendance.

Medical Student Research Day
All graduating students, regardless of whether they participated in Discovery or did a dual research degree, are required to present their work at Research Day either as a talk (chosen from final papers) or as a poster. Both talks and posters are judged and awards are given at the end of the day. Medical Student Research Day for the Class of 2021 will be held Thursday April 22, 2021.

Discovery Funding
Depending upon the field of your Discovery research, there may be fellowships that can be applied for to obtain financial support. These may provide a small stipend, money to be put toward your research project or funds for meeting travel, depending upon the specific fellowship. The Discovery program has collected information on a number of such fellowships and we will email out a copy. You can also find these posted below. Also check with your mentor as they may be aware of additional possible fellowships in their specialty.

Useful links:

Class of 2021 Discovery Checklist Fall 2020  

Discovery Checklist Class of 2021 For Discovery starting in March  

Discovery Checklist Class of 2021 For Discovery starting in April  

Discovery Checklist Class of 2021 For Discovery starting in May  

Discovery Checklist Class of 2021 For Discovery starting in June  

Discovery Checklist Class of 2021 For Discovery starting in July  

Discovery Checklist Class of 2021 For Discovery starting in August  

Dr. Powers' Intersession Presentation  Introduction to Discovery, August 29, 2018

Request for Research Year/Fellowship Year/Extended Discovery

Proposal Guidelines

Sample Research Proposal 1

Sample Research Proposal 2

Mentor Proposal Approval Form

For projects involving international travel

To apply for funds for International travel

Information on CITI Training

Discovery final paper guidelines

Student Funding Opportunities

Medical Student Research Day

Mid-Discovery Progress Report

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Last Update: 02/29/2020